Incentive Travel to Japan｜Hospitality Experiences for Foreigners 5 Case Studies
Nowadays, we see many foreigners in various places due to inbound travel.
Japan has become one of the most attractive countries to travel to.
However, are you wondering where to go when your overseas subsidiary’s staff visits Japan?
Many companies and staff members are wondering how to provide hospitality to important overseas customers, business partners, or staff members of overseas offices when they visit Japan on incentive trips.
Since they are coming to Japan, we want to provide them with special hospitality, not the usual run-of-the-mill hospitality.
This desire to leave with a good impression can be seen everywhere in today’s global society.
For those in charge of such matters, we would like to offer a special kind of hospitality, not a run-of-the-mill one. We would like to introduce our past experience and examples to those who want to offer hospitality in a way that even Japanese people cannot easily provide.
What is inbound?
Inbound refers to foreign visitors coming to Japan from overseas and travel to Japan.
Japan has become a popular travel destination because of its abundance of tourist attractions, the ability to savor travel in different parts of the country in different seasons, the variety of Japanese cuisine, and the depth of its culture.
More and more Japanese companies are inviting foreign companies to Japan as incentive (reward) trips.
What is Incentive Travel?
Incentive travel is when a company offers travel as a special reward to staff who contribute to sales and profits through sales and other means.
In the past, many Japanese companies used overseas trips as incentive trips, such as trips to Hawaii and inspection tours to the United States and Europe.
Recently, due to inbound demand, there are many reward trips to Japan from Asian countries.
In particular, many companies implement incentive travel from Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore as part of their company status.
In the past, it was difficult to visit Japan because of its high cost of living, but with the economic growth of Asian countries, there is now more room for incentive travel to Japan, which is also a factor in the increase in incentive travel.
On the one hand, incentive trips by Japanese companies for Japanese nationals to go abroad are decreasing, but on the other hand, incentive trips by overseas subsidiaries and branches of Japanese companies to invite staff who have contributed to the company to Japan are on the rise.
With the number of foreign visitors to Japan approaching 40 million, inbound incentive travel is still on the rise.
What is Incentive Travel to Japan?
Common cases of incentive travel to Japan include cases where a branch office of a Japanese company overseas invites a particular high-performing employee or all employees to Japan as a reward trip, and cases where an overseas company invites an employee or all employees to Japan as a reward trip to Japan.
In many cases, the former is planned at the initiative of the head office in Japan, while the latter is planned voluntarily by overseas companies.
Also common to both is that since they are going to Japan, they often want to have a uniquely Japanese experience or include team building training to enhance teamwork with Japanese culture.
The following is a summary of the notes and examples.
Three Points to Consider When Entertaining Foreigners on Incentive Trips to Japan
Note 1: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – think carefully about how you would feel if you were the other person.
It is necessary to put yourself in the other person’s shoes as much as possible. One of the most common cases is that Japanese people assume that they are doing the right thing and offer hospitality.
For example, visitors to Japan are highly interested in Japanese culture, so we prepare them with the same sensibility as Japanese people to give them a good taste of traditional Japanese performing arts such as Noh.
However, after an hour of sitting cross-legged on a zabuton (Japanese cushion), foreigners who are not used to sitting on a zabuton find that the time spent in this position turns into a painful experience.
Also, without historical knowledge as well as cultural knowledge, it is quite difficult for even a Japanese person to watch for a long time.
For example, a visit to the historical sites of the feudal lords of the Warring States Period is initially enjoyable for the joy of seeing Japanese culture, but soon turns into boredom for most foreigners, as they do not understand the historical background of the Warring States Period.
The same thing often happens when Japanese people go abroad.
For example, even if you visit historical sites such as famous castles in Europe, in many cases, you may not have a good understanding of the historical background and are simply looking at similar castles. It is important not to let them feel the same way.
Note 2: Conveying authentic Japanese culture – with a twist.
It is important to convey authentic Japanese culture.
However, Japanese culture is very diverse, and there is an enjoyable tendency to immediately incorporate other cultures into one’s own culture, and to transform it into one’s own culture and accept it.
This multicultural enjoyment is what makes Japanese culture interesting and accepted overseas.
While it is a good opportunity to see kabuki and other forms of authentic Japanese culture, there are many cases in which it would be considered uniquely Japanese if there were an extra twist to the experience beyond simply watching kabuki. Please refer to the following five examples of hospitality to find out exactly what we mean by “one more twist.
Note 3 Understanding of Japanese society differs depending on nationality, gender, age, individual or group, and number of visits to Japan.
People around the world know that Japan is an economic powerhouse and that the Japanese are hardworking people. In particular, businessmen around the world have a certain amount of knowledge about Japan.
On the other hand, a surprisingly large number of people in some countries still believe that Japanese society is still samurai.
However, it is often the case that such persons are not in a well-informed environment.
What is important from this perspective with regard to hospitality is to understand the basic information of the recipient, such as nationality, gender, age, individual or group, and number of visits to Japan.
Countries that are physically close to Japan, such as those in Asia, are often exposed to Japanese culture through Japanese TV programs.
On the other hand, countries far from Japan, such as Africa, are relatively unfamiliar with Japanese culture.
Gender is also important.
Men like martial arts, but many women are not interested in martial arts but in kimono and flower arrangement.
Recommended Incentive Travel 5 Examples of Hospitality
If you are interested in learning more about the Japanese cultural experiences that foreigners like, please refer to this article.
Reference article: Japan from a Foreigner’s Perspective: 10 Examples of Japanese Cultural Experiences Liked by Foreigners
Here we have selected five examples of hospitality in incentive travel that we have worked with.
As mentioned above, when conducting an event, it is not just a matter of conveying Japanese culture, but adding a twist there can enhance the event considerably.
This will be remembered by the customer as a positive image.
It is also important to include a proper explanation.
Simply watching without any knowledge of what you are seeing will change over time from an emotional experience to a painful one. It is important to impress the customer even for a short time.
The tea ceremony is full of the basics of hospitality
The tea ceremony is the foundation of Japanese hospitality. It is fair to say that the manners of hospitality have been formalized from the tea ceremony. Learning the etiquette of the tea ceremony is interesting in its own way.
The tea ceremony is a way to add a twist to the experience, and adding live music is an effective way to do so. There is the idea that it is the hostess who makes the tea and the guest is the recipient of the hospitality.
However, if you have gone to the trouble of treating your important foreign guests to a tea ceremony, it would be a memorable experience for them to deepen their understanding of the tea ceremony by having them make tea for you.
Karate as Entertainment
Karate has become an official sport at the Tokyo Olympics, and foreigners are increasingly interested in the sport.
In particular, karate is a Japanese sport that emphasizes mind, technique, and body, and they are interested not only in winning and losing, but also in the Japanese etiquette and manners that they learn there.
In addition, karate uses kata as its basic movement, and women seem to have a desire to learn self-defense techniques by mastering these kata.
When demonstrating karate to important guests or VIPs, it is better to show not only kata, but also kawara-splitting and bat-folding, as well as an explanation of the fundamental attitudes of karate in order to show the amazingness of karate.
Mystical Sport Sumo
Sumo is a very mysterious sport for foreigners. Questions about training and hierarchical relationships are asked incessantly whenever we hold a sumo event. How much do you eat?”
How can I get so big?” “How many wrestlers are there and who is the strongest?” etc. are really frequently asked.
The reason why there are so many questions is because sumo is a very Japanese sport and there is no similar sport in other countries, so people are more interested in sumo because they are not familiar with it.
By witnessing the seriousness with which former rikishi wrestle with each other, and by wrestling together with former rikishi, many guests leave satisfied with the experience, as they are able to understand how great sumo wrestlers really are.
Ninja, after all.
Overseas, ninjas often appear in manga and movies, and the image of “Japan is all about ninjas! The image of the ninja is well established in foreign countries.
However, if you do a regular ninja show without thinking, it will be like the Solidarity Rangers that are held at shopping malls for children on holidays.
In order to truly enjoy the ninja, several innovations are necessary, including lighting, music, and scenarios.
In addition, since ninjas have a strong image of being active and lively in the dark, it is highly effective to hold a show as a surprise.
Kabuki is one of Japan’s representative traditional performing arts.
Along with Noh and Geisha, Kabuki is also famous overseas. Many foreigners want to see Kabuki when they come to Japan.
We often hear that foreigners who go to the trouble of going to see Kabuki often fail to understand the story and dance.
Art may be something that needs no explanation.
However, it is quite difficult for a foreigner who has no knowledge of Japanese art to appreciate it because it is a wonderful art form.
It is important to input prior knowledge before seeing a Kabuki performance.
Also, as with other performing arts, many foreigners are more interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes (the actor’s transformation). It is important to systematically organize such tricks and show them to foreigners.
When important overseas customers, business partners, dignitaries, or VIPs visit Japan, they have a lot on their minds.
Above all, the burden on those in charge is greater than one might think.
In such cases, by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and adding a little ingenuity, your guests will feel that they have received a deeper level of hospitality. When setting up a traditional Japanese event, it is also necessary to provide proper explanations so as not to bore the guests.
We also feature tea ceremony, karate, sumo, ninja, and kabuki as recommended events, but as with any event, it is important to think from the customer’s perspective.
The customer’s point of view means that the level of understanding of Japan differs by country and region, so it is necessary not to assume that everyone understands Japan, but to provide minimal information such as historical and cultural background, and to consider the space and time of the event so that it does not change from a moving experience to a painful one.
Just by being properly aware of these things, your valued customers will continue to leave a good impression.
If you are interested in learning more about the key to attracting incentive travel, please refer to this article.
Reference article: https://mice.jnto.go.jp/other-support/incentive-travel-promote/